Jay Reatard Interview! Addresses the haters.
Jay Reatard is blowin' up!
Photo by Rob Walbers
CLICK HERE to BUY the "Watch Me Fall" CD/LP
By Rich Tupica
Success has been bittersweet for songwriter Jay “Reatard” Lindsey.
While he has been basking in recent accomplishments and a steadily growing fan base, the 29 year-old Memphis native has also been facing ridicule from friends who had previously supported him since he started playing music in 1998.
What is it that’s made some of Lindsey’s old supporters turn their backs on him recently? Comparing his first band, The Reatards, to his electro-black metal band, Terror Visions, shows the versatility he has accomplished with every record. He has been continually evolving, which makes the sudden backlash seem more related to success, rather than a dislike for his latest records.
Could it be that Jay is being savaged by haters?
The title “Watch Me Fall,” which is his new album on Matador Records, is a reference to the sudden onset of shit talk.
Though, according to Lindsey, the subject matter on the new LP hasn’t changed much from his usual motif.
“The record is about the same crap I’ve always written about; death, girls and a general dislike for society,” Lindsey said.
He also said the record touches on a new element.
“It’s also about me coming to terms with being a little older and dealing with mortality issues, a kind of slipping away from the whole youthful idea of being immortal,” he said. “It’s serious, but with a sense of humor as well.”
Read the following interview to get the scoop on his new album, the story behind his performance with Beck at the Nokia Theater, and a bunch more.
To read my previous interviews with Jay, visit the links below:
CLICK HERE to read the first Turn it Down JAY interview
CLICK HERE to read the second Turn it Down JAY interview
So, Jay, do you think you’ll be able to take a break from touring anytime soon?
I don’t know. I’ve already got a lot of my next album already written. It looks like I’m going to be pretty fucking busy until next year, around this time, until I get another break.
I don’t really write too much when I’m on tour. So I utilize all the time I have when I’m home.
How did you book TV Smith from The Adverts to tour with you as an opener?
The whole thing was my idea. I just figured out a way to get in touch with him and asked him if he ever toured America. He said, “Not much at all.” He’s been waiting on the right situation to do it. I sent him a copy of my record and he really liked the Adverts cover I did on there. We just started chatting and it all came together.
How long did it take to complete the new album?
I recorded the entire thing, then I flew to New York to turn it in. I worked on it from May through January 2008 in my spare time. I turned in 14 songs and started talking to the guys at Matador. I told them I felt I was kind of rushed through this process. I still had to master it at that point and take the cover photo. They said, “Well, you’re kind of right, we did kind of rush you through this process.” So I just flew back home, and I think I recorded about four tracks, and re-did a bunch of them. I ended up with like 17 songs and about 20 different tracks to pick from. I narrowed that down to 12 tracks. The first 3,000 or so LPs are going to come with a 10-inch EP; you can’t buy the 10-inch individually, you have to buy the album to get it. With iTunes you’ll probably be able to download all 17 songs, I’m not sure though.
Will you release some of the unused songs on 7-inches?
I was going to do that, but unfortunately whatever you turn into the label, the label owns. If I would have had the foresight to see that those songs were going to be cut, I could have held them back and released them on my own label or whatever. Before the year is out I think I’ll still have three or four 7-inches out.
Did you wind up using any new instruments on this record like you’d planned?
I built up a lot of different stuff that I was going to use, some different instrumentation. In the mixing process I scaled it down. I think there may be two songs with cello, but it’s really subtle, I don’t think you’d even notice it’s there. It’s just a wall of sound. I think I left some mandolin parts on one song. There is some Farfisfa and upright piano on some. It’s not really that big of a departure. At first I was starting with all these different instruments, but I wound up leaving the songs more skeletal.
Cover for "Watch Me Fall" (Matador)
Why is the new LP titled "Watch Me Fall"?
I feel my life has changed drastically. You would think after you move to a better label that your peers would be cheering you on. The close friends I keep around me were pretty excited that I was going to do something different. But I was very surprised by a lot of people that I thought were my friends, how they flip flop on how they stood as far as what I was doing musically or with my life. Which kind of turned into the same thing, there is not much of a separation anymore. I thought people would be stoked to see my endeavors in life sail at this point, but I guess success is really relative to a lot of things.
How have people been talking shit? On the internet, you mean?
The internet is the easiest way to do it, but I don’t put much value on those people. It’s more like people who are close to me. It’s not a big deal. Well, I guess it’s a big enough deal that I named my album something like that. I felt it was a fitting title, it’s not too cheery of a record. It’s not as upbeat as anything I’ve made before. The A-side is a punk record, when you flip it over it turns into this moody, not necessarily indie-rock record, but I guess closer to that than what people consider punk.
Do you think some people may have turned on you because you moved up to a bigger indie label?
Labels are the easy thing to judge by I guess. I don’t think what I’m doing has really changed all that much. I still record in my dining room. The type of songs I’m writing are slightly different, but that’s not a valid excuse for somebody to absolutely write off what I’m doing. I’m not super self aware or anything but I am almost positive that with every band I’ve been in, from album to album, there has been a slight departure in style from the one before. I do try to keep a general aesthetic with my music, which is: home crafted punk rock. It’s been kind of a weird year for me.
Do you feel that you have succeeded musically?
The fact that I made this record and I’m done with it, I feel I’ve succeeded, I’m done with it. Whether it sells or not, well I really don’t base success on numbers, monetary value or anything like that. I feel like there is a lot of people around me that probably do think that way, so this record is just me sounding off to those kind of people. It’s tongue in cheek, I guess.
What’s the story behind the “I Did Coke With Jay Reatard” pins that have shown up on eBay?
Oh yeah. It’s really strange. I was looking around at those. I was like, “Oh, ha-ha, funny.” Then I noticed the eBay seller is from Cleveland and the girl I’ve been living with for the past couple of years is from there. So I asked her if she recognized this guy’s seller name, I was like, “You have a friend named that, right?” And she said "yeah." So she e-mailed her friend and said, “What’s up with those pins?” He was like, “Yeah, they’re funny, huh?”
There is only one degree of separation between him and me. I think that’s a little bit close for his comfort. I have a sense of humor, but I can honestly say that I’ve never did coke with that guy in my fucking life.
Do you get tired of people spreading drug rumors and talking about you punching people?
I think it’s funny that people think doing coke makes people violent. I didn’t try any hard drugs until I was at least 23 - my most violent period was probably from age 17 to 21. I didn’t even drink alcohol until I was 20 or so.
What comes first for you in songwriting, lyrics or music?
Definitely music, because that’s what my ears go to first. I feel like words have to come naturally, you have to write about what you know. If you don’t do that, it’s going to be apparent. I refuse to use words in my lyrics that I wouldn’t use in conversation. I think a lot of people pull out the thesaurus when they write lyrics and it comes off a little contrived. I’d rather be accused of having my lyrics be too simple or obvious than too abstract or too wordy.
Are your live shows going to change on your next tour?
Once we start playing the new set we will definitely try to make the set more dynamic. It’s changed a lot, even from just a year ago. It’s a lot more noisy now, but more dynamic. It’s not just balls out all the time.
I also think we are going to have longer sets. Every time we go out we extend it a little longer. We’ll probably play closer to 20 songs now, about 60-minutes long. Justice from the Final Solutions may come along and play guitar.
Jay packs the house. photo by Caio Porto
Did you record this album at your house and did you have any help playing the instruments?
I did one track in a studio, a reel-to-reel 8-track studio. I was happy with the results. Billy played drums on four out of 12 songs, I played everything else.
What have you noticed about becoming more popular and playing shows?
I guess what people try to do is, the more popular the band becomes, the more they try to recreate the comforts of home on the road. It’s kind of fighting a losing battle. That’s one of the worse parts - if you enjoy being home. You can’t bring your house on tour with you. That’s the biggest downfall, no matter how much money you’re making, or how many people show up, you still can’t sleep in your own bed. The first week of touring you always miss home. From the second to the fourth week you are kind of numb and you want to go home. It takes time adjusting back and forth.
You recorded a cover of a Beck song, which he used as the B-side on a 7-inch, how did that come about?
Beck’s manager sent an e-mail and asked if I was down for it. I guess he is a fan and wanted to work together in some form. That was the idea they came up with. Rather than doing remixes for the B-side of his newest single, he got somebody to cover it. He thought it’d be a little more creative than just doing a remix. I flew out to LA after that and we played a show together, hung out a little bit. He’s a nice dude. It was kind of strange, he wouldn’t take no for an answer - he wanted me to come out and sing with him on the song. I was kind of like, “I don’t know the lyrics, man.” I recorded the song and I heard it on the radio two or three times, but I hadn’t put much thought into it after that. I should have seen that coming and learned the fucking lyrics. I had his manager go print them out on a piece of paper!” I was nervous, I thought it was going to be kind of corny, but you know whatever. It’s one of those things if you pass it up, you’ll regret not doing it for the funny memory.
Was it weird playing on stage with such a huge star or are you getting used to it?
No, I never get used to anything. The only thing I got used to was playing shows with no one there. I got really used to that. Now it’s so far out of my element that it feels incredibly weird. I am getting more confident and trying to do things that I’d normally be afraid to do musically. Two years ago if you would have asked me if I would ever walk out on stage at the fucking Nokia Theater with Beck I probably would have laughed at you.
You also did a split with Sonic Youth, who arranged that 7-inch?
Well, we’re on the same label but I know that for awhile now Thurston Moore has been paying attention to what I’ve been doing. Way back, close to four years ago, he came to a Shattered Records showcase at SXSW and bought every bands’ record. He hung out and watched the Angry Angles set, he’s a nice guy.
What’s up with your label, Shattered Records? I notice you are pressing new records?
I have a bunch of releases lined up. It’s all about finding time to do them. I got Hunx & His Punks, a Box Elders single, Cola Freaks - just a lot of bands I really like. I recently signed up Nobunny for his third LP. There is this punk kid from Memphis named Seth who has a band called The Useless Eaters. I think he’s like 18 or 19 years old. He’s just making stuff on his 4-track in his bedroom.
How did you hear about The Useless Eaters?
I think I heard his shit on MySpace. It’s really exciting to start working with a young, snotty brat again. Not unlike myself when I was his age. I didn’t know him and he lives in town. I e-mailed and asked him if he wanted to do a record. I gave him money to pay his bills and what not. Took him out to eat a few times. He was really stoked. I feel any label can put your record out but anything extra people did when I first started putting out records, to make me feel like they actually cared about me personally and what I was doing, those small things went a long way.
Do you see yourself staying in Memphis? Or maybe moving to New York or something like that?
I could never live in New York, I can’t be caged up like an animal. I think I’ll be in Memphis at least for a few more years but I might be here permanently. I’m probably going to be buying a house in the next few months. The house I’m buying is essentially two apartments, so I’ll hopefully be able to use it to run my business and studio out of the other side.
Buying a house - that’s a pretty grown up move.
Yeah, if you also would have asked me awhile back if I’d own a house and have an actual, legal business in the state of Tennessee called “Jay Reatard,” I probably would have laughed. But I think if I would have had this kind of ambition when I was 18, I don’t think things would have turned out the way they did.
What has been the high point of the past two years for you?
I guess the times we have been to Australia have been incredible, man. We played a traveling festival, we played outside everyday. We toured by airplane so we didn’t have to sit in a van. It was just a great experience. I ate a lot of healthy food and spent a lot of time with good people. I’m to the point now where it’s not all about getting completely shit faced and trying to put on a spectacle for people. It’s become something else. I’ve found an audience that’s willing to except it. It’s entertaining enough for them to just watch somebody get up and play some songs and convey a little emotion as an energy. They don’t need the next step. They don’t need to see a three-ring circus with a guy trying to destroy himself on stage every night.
The high point is - almost everything. I can’t really think of any negative points in the past year and a half of my life. It’s all been up hill. I know that stuff eventually runs out, but whatever. I’m just enjoying everything. I try to take it all in and remember.
CLICK HERE to visit Jay Reatard.com
CLICK HERE to visit Shattered Records, Jay's label
CLICK HERE to visit Jay on MySpace
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Please write for permission to use any text.